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Voting Rights Act

The Voting Rights Act enshrines the right of every citizen to participate in our democracy on an equal basis, and it's under threat. We work to strengthen this essential law and restore its core protections.


The Voting Rights Act (VRA) was passed in 1965 to ensure that state and local governments do not deny American citizens the equal right to vote based on their race, color, or membership in a minority language group. This momentous piece of legislation enshrines the right of every citizen an equal opportunity to participate in our democracy.

But that right is under threat. In 2013, the Supreme Court eviscerated a key provision of the VRA. Section 5 of the law required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to obtain approval before changing voting rules. This process, known as “preclearance,” blocked discrimination before it occurred. In Shelby County v. Holder, the court invalidated Section 4 — which determines the states and localities covered by Section 5 — ruling Congress must pass a new formula to determine which states and localities would be subject to “preclearance.” The ruling had the effect of eliminating preclearance, ushering in a wave of efforts in states previously covered under Section 5 to restrict voting rights.

The Brennan Center supports legislation to strengthen the VRA and restore its core protections, tracks violations of the VRA, and has developed a roadmap to restoring the strength of our democracy through the VRA.

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